A month after he returned to Florida from a brief trip to Morocco, prominent attorney Scott Rothstein was arrested by federal authorities this morning, accused of running a $1 billion investment fraud, the Miami Herald reports.
Rothstein, who has reportedly cooperated with authorities in recent weeks, is expected to plead guilty to a RICO conspiracy charge, according to the Herald.
Investors have accused Rothstein of promising them big returns on phony legal settlements he sold out of a side business at his Fort Lauderdale firm, Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, and Adler. Over the past seven years, he has had a meteoric rise through the South Florida business and political elite, doling out millions in campaign and philanthropic donations along the way.
The revelation of Rothstein’s alleged fraud has been awkward for the beneficiaries of his generosity, Gov. Charlie Crist chief among them.
As for the accused fraudster himself, it’s been a rough month. He sent a desperate text message to his former partners while in Morocco, and he considered taking his own life — only to reportedly be talked out of it by his rabbi (of the Rothstein Family Downtown Jewish Center Chabad in Fort Lauderdale).
According to the Herald, charges against other figures in Rothstein’s orbit may be coming:
The U.S. attorney’s office, meanwhile, will convene a grand jury to consider criminal charges against Rothstein’s alleged co-conspirators — possibly including former employees of his now-defunct firm.
Prosecutors are using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to charge Rothstein and possibly others. The conspiracy law was passed by Congress to battle the Mafia and others involved in criminal enterprises. Rothstein, who was disbarred last week by the Florida Supreme Court, is accused of mail, wire and bank fraud, along with money laundering. He faces at least 20 years in prison and forfeiture of tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits if convicted.